NAE President C.D. Mote, Jr. on Understanding and Executing Leadership

| September 15, 2017

This year’s keynote Dorman Lecture, hosted by the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, was given by National Academy of Engineering (NAE) President C.D. Mote, Jr.

Sonny Astani Department Chair Lucio Soibelman, NAE President C. D. Mote, Jr., alumnus Albert Dorman and USC Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos. Photo/Viterbi School of Engineering

USC Viterbi’s Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering hosted their annual keynote lecture on Sept. 7, named in honor of alumnus and founding chairman of AECOM, Albert Dorman. This year’s speaker was C. D. Mote, Jr., the president of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).

“Al strongly believes that civil and environmental engineers are not taking enough leadership positions in our society, and Dr. Mote is for sure a role model that can provide us deep insight not just in engineering, but also in leadership and on policy issues. The lecture “Understanding and Executing Leadership” that he will present today is a perfect fit for this lecture series aligned to Al’s vision,” said Lucio Soibelman, department chair, as he introduced Mote.

C. D. Mote, Jr. giving the keynote Dorman Lecture to a crowd of faculty, students, and NAE members. Photo/Viterbi School of Engineering

To the crowd of students, faculty and local NAE members, Mote opened his talk by saying, “I have to admit that I’ve never taken a course on leadership… but I have had to take on leadership responsibilities and make leadership decisions.”

Mote, a Regent’s Professor on leave from the University of Maryland, College Park, earned his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees at the University of California, Berkeley, where he also held an endowed chair in mechanical systems, chaired the Mechanical Engineering Department from 1987 to 1991 and served as vice chancellor from 1991 to 1998. He served as president of the University of Maryland from 1998 to 2010. His recognitions include the NAE Founders Award, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Medal and the Humboldt Prize of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Elected NAE president in 2013, his goal is to ensure highly competitive talent for the future engineering workforce, as well as to facilitate public understanding of engineering and the engagement in global engineering issues.

“Engineering is particularly full of various leadership models,” Mote said before explaining different views on leadership and types of leaders. “Before you take on a leadership role, you have to understand leadership responsibility.”

While managers are responsible for the tactical executions necessary to achieve a certain goal, leaders instead determine the overall strategic vision and set those goals. But first, they must know who they are leading. These people fall into what Mote refers to as the “cone of responsibility,” inside of which all team members reside.

“Execution requires vision; a plan to bring everyone within the cone of responsibility to accept, or better yet, adopt the vision as their own,” Mote said. “This is where the fun actually starts, getting everyone on the same team.”

At the University of Maryland, College Park, Mote had creative methods for getting people on the same team. For example, he set a goal to shake every student’s hand at least once each year. He also offered to take any student who was interested out to lunch and started open house days titled “Maryland Day” to become accessible to state residents.

Pictures of the event can be found in the Viterbi Flickr Album.